For the week of August 26 thru September 1, 1998  

Hemingway centennial celebration might do the trick

Commentary by Pat Murphy

When the Ketchum City Council ponyed up more than $12,500 and asked the chamber of commerce to help bring the town to life on summer nights for visitors, who could’ve known that a man dead for 37 years might lend a hand?

News this week out of publishing circles is that a massive, 200,000-word Hemingway manuscript, long held under wraps in the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, is headed for the Simon & Schuster printing presses, and will be on sale in time for the 100th anniversary of Hemingway’s birth next July 21.

Now, I ask:

If the Sun Valley and Ketchum areas are looking for ways to spice up nights for visitors, why not a 100th birthday event that not only would liven up activities for visitors, but also provide a solemn and meaningful tribute to Hemingway, the town’s most celebrated modern-day resident?

Although Key West holds its annual Hemingway look-alike frolic at Sloppy Joe’s bar where Hemingway was an habitue, Ketchum and Sun Valley are the only towns in North America that boast such serious Hemingway history or character.

Hemingway helped promote Sun Valley in the 1930s. He worked on some of his novels here. His oldest son Jack and granddaughter, actress Mariel Hemingway, live here. He spent his last years in Ketchum. He committed suicide here and is buried here, along with his fourth and last wife, Mary. And a new two-hour A&E television documentary about Hemingway’s dark side narrated by Mariel Hemingway was produced here.

As for the new book, it’s expected to create a buzz about Hemingway and how much of the 850-page "True at First Light" is fiction, how much autobiography.

Edited by his middle son Patrick Hemingway, who lives in Bozeman, Mont., "True at First Light" resembles an actual Hemingway safari in Africa – spiced with the narrator’s marriage to a tribal maiden, which Hemingway mentioned whimsically in the 1950s, but with a twinkle that left his family wondering whether he had, indeed, taken a teen African woman as a bride.

Taken together, publication of the new book next summer, the new documentary, the Hemingway home in Ketchum, his gravesite, and tales of his final years in Idaho combine to provide the ingredients for a memorable celebration that honors, as well as celebrates, Hemingway’s great contributions to literature.

The Hemingway family probably has mixed feelings about public events that take on the quality of spectacles, such as the Key West look-alike contest.

But if Simon & Schuster were recruited to throw its weight behind a book premiere here, A&E television transcribed the new video documentary into a film for showing in theaters, the Nature Conservancy opened the Hemingway home to tours, and the Hemingway family agreed to take part in lectures on their famed kinsman, Ketchum and Sun Valley could become something of an epicenter in the world of Hemingway archaeology.

Not a bad reputation for a town to have, either.

Pat Murphy is a past publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.


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